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Cotton has been one of the most important cash crops in the U.S. for most of the nation’s history, but for most of the past hundred years, those crops were regularly devastated by an invasive insect called the Pink Bullworm. But as of last October, the pest has been officially eradicated from the southwestern states where pest control bills used to cost farmers tens of millions of dollars a year — making the U.S. the first country in the world to fully eradicate the insect.
The effort was led by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and in particular, Osama El-Lissy, the deputy administrator for plant protection and quarantine. For his efforts, he’s a 2019 Service to America Medals finalist. He spoke with Federal Drive with Tom Temin about what it finally took to eliminate the bullworm, and the damage it did before that.